Nine women from Surrey are competing in this year’s Miss BC contest. (Photos submitted)

Nine Surrey contestants in the running for Miss BC title

Surrey has many contestants this year. Cast your vote online for the People’s Choice Award

This year’s Miss BC pageant is set for July 1 to 3 in Fort Langley.

Surrey has nine contestants competing this year.

Remember, you can vote for your Miss Teen BC pick in the People’s Choice Awards.

You can cast your vote online, once per hour, until the contest closes on June 23 at midnight.

Read about your local candidates below:

Anne Longakit

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Anne Longakit describes herself as “quite different from what society visualizes as a ‘pageant girl.’”

She has finished her third year at UBC as an Honours Biology Student and is enrolled in UBC’s Science Co-op Program.

She has been on the “Dean’s Honour List” for the past two years at UBC, and was also the recipient of the Governor General’s Academic Medal in 2014 after graduating high school with the highest average in her class.

She’s received a variety of scholarships, including some from Canadian Paint and Coating Associations and the Pollon Poultry Scholarship for Science. She currently works at the Women’s Health and Research Institute at BC Women’s Hospital as a Bio Statistical Assistant.

Longakit is also involved in her community. She is an ambassador for SOS Children’s Village of BC, has coached elementary school volleyball and has volunteered at Vancouver General Hospital as well as Pinamalayan Community Hospital, which is located in the Philippines.

In 2014, Longakit travelled to Ecuador with her high school’s global issues club, Project Equal, to help build a school.

Last year, she was crowned Miss Teenage Surrey, which she said “has allowed me to expand my community service by volunteering at various events throughout the Lower Mainland. In the future, I hope to pursue a meaningful career in health care, which incorporates my love for science, learning, and service.”

Longakit says her first year at university was the most challenging time of her life, academically and emotionally.

“Graduating from high school with the highest grade point average was a very big accomplishment for me, and after that feat, I was certain that I could overcome any challenges that came my way in the coming years, because I felt exceptional,” she said. “I enrolled myself in UBC’s Science One Program, which offers an academically rigorous first year in exchange for the opportunity to become part of a community of learners of 75 students, guided by some of UBC’s accomplished professors. Little did I know, the 74 other students in my class were also exceptional. I struggled to keep up with the material in all of my classes. The self-esteem and self-confidence that I had so carefully built during my teenage years began to plummet, and my grades soon reflected that.”

However she soon found support.

In her second term, her mom recommended she go back to the volleyball club and coach.

“During my time as a coach, I was able to mentor and help foster a love for volleyball in the young girls,” Longakit said. “Those Sunday practices became the highlight of my week, and soon enough my spirits were slowly lifting. Reflecting back on that time in my life now, I realize that volunteering helped keep me grounded by putting things into perspective. It helped me find my sense of purpose again, and rekindle the light that had slowly started to diminish a few months prior. I have since been more active within my community, by volunteering at local events and organizations as much as possible.”

Arsh Purba

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Arsh Purba says “life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.”

“I believe that we all were put on this planet for a special purpose, each and everyone of us has a huge part in making a difference,” she added.

Purba said she entered Miss BC to “inspire and support individuals to transform their dreams to reality and to love their true self.

“We beat ourselves up to the point where we get trapped in our hardships, and have no one there to help get us out. I want to be that person. Everyone has stories to be told. I didn’t join to be heard, I joined to listen,” she added.

Purba said she strives to “lead with vulnerability” and that her love for humanity has made her “confident and non-judgemental.”

“I want individuals to strive for acceptance and growth,” she said. “Take your life in your hands because everybody dies but not everyone lives. Live life the way you want, make mistakes, laugh about it, give it your all, with no limitations or regrets.”

Arshdeep Purba

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Arshdeep Purba says “inspiration is the route we tend to use as our guide; we look up to those ordinary individuals who have dedicated their lives to extraordinary things, which we aspire to achieve someday.

“We take a step and may fall, but the only difference is between those who give up and those who strive,” she added.

Purba said moving to Canada at a young age and leaving loved ones behind was difficult, as was adjusting to a new community.

“My family and I started with nothing in our hands, and worked hard to gradually settle,” she said. “I was always in self-doubt and let myself drown with my insecurities. I want to be the voice that inspires individuals to accomplish their goals and conquer happiness, but mainly to be proud of who they are.”

Purba said she strives to be the sunshine in the lives of those around her.

“Being confident in ourselves and embracing those imperfections is the true essence of overcoming inner struggles. My vision is to be the ray of light that positively influences everyone,” she said. “As Anatole France once said, ‘I cling to my imperfection, as the very essence of my being.’ This shows the importance of defeating anything that limits us. All of my skills and qualifications have been strengthened through my experiences. I have volunteered with a seniors village, elementary schools, City of Surrey, Science World, and several marathons/walks. In addition, I have been a part of the SYLC, and SYSS.”

Purba has also been a cadet for years.

“My mom’s father was in the Indian Air Force, my uncle was in the Indian Navy, and their motivational words encouraged me to take a step into this platform,” she said. “Throughout this experience, I have developed a great sense of discipline, and gained qualifications such as marksmanship training, and first aid. I am a NCO, and I have earned the rank of a Sergeant. As a NCO, I taught younger cadets and assisted them in various areas.”

Purba said in order to challenge herself intellectually, she investigated the issue of girls and women around the world who uncontaminated water, legal rights, education, and several other issues.

“To take action for this issue, I started a ‘Because I am a Girl Club,’” she added. “We set a goal to raise awareness and fundraise for water sanitation in developing countries.”

Beenu Bajwa

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Beenu Bajwa said the idea of participating in a pageant initially “terrified” her.

But she stepped out of her comfort zone and decided to embrace it, she said.

Bajwa said as long as she can remember she’s been active in the community, through her home city of Surrey or at UBC, where she’s a pre-med student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Currently, she has an 86 per cent average and this summer will be taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

She plans to go into medicine to become a general body surgeon.

Bajwa recalled a love for medicine, even in childhood.

“Instead of watching Treehouse as a little girl, I would beg my mom to find YouTube videos of doctors doing surgeries. After completing high school with a 4.0 GPA, I decided to turn my dream of becoming a doctor into a plan,” she said.

In addition to her studies, she is the vice president and co-founder of Unified for Change.

“For our first event, we recruited 45 students from Surrey to volunteer at the Prostate Canada Step-Up challenge,” she recalled. “This event was a huge success and led to the recruitment of even more students joining to volunteer with us. What started out as an idea, is now a reality as Unified 4 Change has over 350 members all across Canada with members from elementary schools, high schools and post-secondary institutes all across Canada.”

She also volunteers at the emergency department of BC Children’s Hospital Brain Trauma Injury Centre and is vice president of events for Young Women in Science and Engineering at UBC.

Bajwa says she hopes to use the pageant to raise awareness to the hardships refugees and immigrants face.

“My parents immigrated here in 2004 and have worked hard to make Canada our home. I hope to use the lessons and experiences that my family has undergone to make a difference in the lives of other refugees and new immigrants to help them to adjust to their new environment,” she said. “I hope to use my experience and skills to set up programs that help refugees adjust to their community while providing any necessary resources they need. I know that this is a lofty goal however, in response to this, the words of former president Barack Obama always come to mind: ‘We did not come here to fear the future; we came here to shape it.’”

Genicca Whitney

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Genicca Whitney says she is “on a mission to inspire and empower the future of females.”

She has three little girls and believes it is “our duty, as leaders, to create a life that influences others to dream big.”

“It only takes one person to change a life, which is why I feel compelled to participate in Miss BC,” says Whitney. “I’m prepared to become the leader I need to be for a better tomorrow – to stretch myself in ways I could only imagine and to use my God-given gifts to serve and empower.”

Giving back is at the core of her values. Every year, Whitney, organizes a Vision Board Party, a fundraiser and Mompreneur Potluck to bring like-minded women together.

She is part of the Rise, Thrive & Conquer Collective a platform, to connect with women from all walks of life.

Through her “Dream business” she says she “is committed to awaken the Dreamer within by connecting her with the tools, resources and stories she needs to build a successful business.”

Whitney says she’s different from the stereotypical pageant girl because she “stands for impact.”

“When I think about how I want to be remembered, I don’t think about how I want to be remembered as that woman who had beautiful hair, great skin, or perfect physique,” she said, “I want to be remembered as the person who has made a difference in people’s lives. What keeps me grounded is my desire to uplift those around me – to uncover the jewels that have been forgotten and to serve the way God intended me to serve.”

Whitney said watching her parents struggle when they moved to Canada from the Philippines has been the biggest hardship in her life so far. But also what drove her to success.

“With big change came disaster and our home was not a happy place to be. I was in a dark place with nobody to turn to – and with parents who were too busy working hard to feed the family and hardly working on their marriage, we suffered and things only got worse,” she recalled.

It motivated her to find a different path.

“I immersed myself in school and work,” she said. “I did whatever I could to avoid the chaos at home and discovered my happy place. I pursued a job that I excelled in immediately. It was my first exposure to entrepreneurship at 17 and I was driven by opportunity.”

Financial struggles were the heart of every argument in my home, said Whitney.

“I discovered an opportunity to support myself and my family – and at 19 years old, I bought my parents a home, moved to Vancouver to open my marketing company and started a life out west,” she said. “I am living proof that your past does not dictate your future – and it is my mission to share this with as many people as I can.”

Kamal Sudha

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Kamal Sudha said never in her life would she have guessed she’d be on the pageant stage.

“Now, being a contestant, I will definitely make something out of it which will help me in empowering youth and bringing diversity together,” she said.

Sudha, who describes herself as an optimistic person, said “a person’s inner beauty that comes from within remains forever, that develops confidence and helps in overcoming any challenges in life.

“Everyone has to overcome some hardships either later or earlier in their lives and I am one of them,” she added.

“My favorite quote is, ‘Be happy with what you have while working for what you want,’ because I believe that desires have no limits, but life has its limits. The more we have, the less it seems. People become greedy, work hard to collect materialistic things that will be left behind. One should be thankful for what you have instead of thinking and worrying about what you don’t have. In fact, worrying is not the key to achieve goals in life, but our patience is. Eventually, the things that belong to us come to us no matter what. The more effort you put into something, the better results you get in the end. Our life is itself a gift to us; we’re in charge of making it beautiful by developing self-trust. Be ready to help others when you can without expecting anything in return, instead expect from your own goals, to win through your own capabilities. In short, the less one desires, the more happiness one can get in life.”

Through her pageant participation, she hopes to inspire and encourage people.

“Anything is possible if we want to achieve success in life.”

Naomi Moon

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Naomi Moon says beauty isn’t about having a pretty face, but instead having “a pretty mind, a pretty heart and most importantly a beautiful soul.”

Moon says through the pageant, she strives to promote a strong and positive attitude to young girls to help with their self-confidence.

That’s because she knows what it feels like to lack it.

“After living abroad and coming back to Canada, I felt like a stranger. I lacked the confidence, had low self-esteem and insecurities as being the only Korean student and having no friends,” she said. “The kids talked differently, looked differently and even dressed differently. I eventually overcame these hurdles and I want to share my experiences with the many other teens that had life’s obstacles like myself.”

Moon has a diverse background.

She is involved with Surrey’s Nightshift Street Ministry, which helps the area’s homeless population. She also helps teach Sunday school at her church.

“I have found my passion for caring others by volunteering and serving my community,” she remarked.

Moon also spent time living abroad in Korea, where she did public speaking and won speech finals at her school, landing her a spot on TV.

“Coming back to Canada, I had a few hardships in my teenage life,” she recalled. “When I came back to Canada, I felt like an outsider. I didn’t have any friends and I was even scared of what people might think of me. Due to this, I lacked the confidence in myself, started to have low self-esteem and insecurities with my body image that I compared to other teenagers.”

She said she eventually overcame her impediments by learning not to care what others thought of her and instead embracing herself by loving all of who she was, including her flaws.

“The moment you start loving yourself is when you have true confidence in yourself.”

Moon counts herself different than other pageant entrants because “my purpose is not to show that my outer appearances are more beautiful than other girls but my purpose is to spread positivity to younger girls about loving their self-image and really re-define the definition of beauty.”

Rachael Maghera

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Rachel Maghera said it was actually her brother who first entered her into the Miss BC pageant a few years ago.

“It was truly a blessing in disguise,” she said. “The weekend I spent being a contestant brought many close friends, a new beginning and a new outlook on life. I spent the weekend laughing, crying and learning.”

This year, Maghera said she returns to Miss BC with a new perspective, as both a wife and mother.

“I am so excited to meet everyone, learn, grow and experience it all over again,” she said.

“I believe what makes me unique is my unyielding commitment to be fiercely true to myself. Being true to yourself starts with knowing who you are and accepting yourself; knowing your passions, your strengths and your values.

“As a mom, wife and a ‘mompreneur,’ it’s my goal to be able to help women and girls accept and love themselves in a world that is always influencing and changing.”

At the end of her bio, Maghera quoted Michelle Obama: “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”

Reshmi Chandra

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Reshmi Chandra is a behavioural interventionist. She works with children and adults who have autism.

Through the pageant, she hopes to reduce the stigma behind mental illness and “show that it does not mean we are crazy or dangerous, we are simply human.”

”I am a part of a non-profit organization that my sister in law started called ‘Mentally United’ and we aim to reduce the stigma behind mental illness,” said Chandra. “My passion lies within the inner battles of depression and anxiety. I have suffered from both for many years and it has impacted my life in all sorts of ways. The reason I am putting myself out there in the public eye is to show that a mental illness can prey on anyone.”

She said one in four people suffer from mental illness, so the chances of knowing someone affected are quite high.

”I want to educate my community about this topic and show that just because it does not present itself physically, like a broken bone, doesn’t mean it is any less painful,” said Chandra. “I also want to be a role model for those suffering as well, showing them that I am living proof that it does become easier to manage. Telling others my story will help prompt the conversation about this very important issue and hopefully, it will inspire others to get the help they deserve. Nobody deserves to suffer in silence. Everyone simply wants to be loved, cared for and not judged. So I hope that my presence will create a positive impact on our community.”

When you think of a typical pageant, visions of girls dolled up in fancy dresses being judged on her appearance likely come to mind.

But insists that’s no longer the case.

“Miss BC goes beyond and finds the beauty within,” she said. “Inner beauty will always shine brighter than outer beauty.”